On Saturday evening, I drank a Pepsi.
You might wonder why I’m making such a big deal about it. Because it is a big deal. Because I don’t normally drink pepsi. My preferred choice of cola is Thums Up, and if it’s not available I have a Coke. The only time when I have a pepsi is when both Thums Up and Coke are not available. There are times when I end up at PepsiFoods only stores, and sometimes I even have dew instead of pepsi.
You might think I’m extrapolating based on one data point. But I know more people who swear by thums up. For whom Pepsi is only a third choice cola.
The reason I’m bringing this up now is that Pepsi has spent a bombshell on sponsoring the IPL. Yes, despite being on HD, I managed to see a number of their ads. Pepsi Atom seems cool but they didn’t seem to have had its distribution in place when I wanted to try one. I reverted to my old faithful thums up. Now, I hear news that the India head of Pepsi has been sacked because he was deemed to have over spent on the IPL.
Why someone like Pepsi would spend so much on advertising is beyond me. Yes, they need to be on the top of people’s minds. But considering that everyone they advertise to has tried each of the major colas once, and loyalties to cola brands being rather heavy, I don’t see how they seek to influence sales by advertising. That Shah Rukh Khan drinks pepsi doesn’t alter my opinion one bit – I’m loyal to my thums up. I would think the same to be true to a loyal pepsi fan.
After having said so many times that I’m a loyal Thums Up customer, you might want to know why I drank Pepsi on Saturday. Because that little shop in Malleswaram I went to stocked only pepsi products. And he didn’t have dew. Faced with the choice of Pepsi or Mirinda or 7Up, I opted for the first. It was that exclusive agreement that PepsiCo had with that shopkeeper that made me consume their product.
Pepsi should invest more in this. Give higher margins to retailers who are willing to stock only pepsi products. Cola is something in which people have loyalties, but those loyalties are typically not so strong that the shop tends to lose business if the customer’s favourite brand is not available. Given lack of choice, customers will switch.
But then I guess the problem is that Pepsi is a “marketing-driven” rather than “sales-driven” company (we used to hear a lot about this distinction during recruitment time at business school). And the thing with marketing everywhere is that they are not measured. Like this friend who markets phones once gleefully told me that an advertisement he put out had a million likes on facebook. I asked him how many extra phones his company sold as a function of that ad. He had no answer. Marketing is like that everywhere. It is not judged based on real tangible numbers. And I hear that marketers like to keep it that way!
The last time I was in this guru mode I had commented that Nokia’s strategy of promoting Lumia by the strength of its camera was doomed to fail – for people don’t buy phones because they want a camera. Nokia seems to have learnt. The latest ad for the 520 talks about the apps that are available. This time they seem to have got it right.